The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Feb/05

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iPod: the new radio and a precursor

The iPod and iPod Shuffle in particular, are the new radio. Radio in the US has become so formulaic and predictable with one company alone owning over 1650 stations. An iPod fills the role that radio used to fill – playing the music I want to listen to. Well, more accurately, playing the “stuff” I want to listen to because not all radio is music. Except an iPod really does play my music and my stuff – not what a program director thinks I want to listen to, but what I really want to listen to. Shuffle mode makes it even more like radio because it is the music I want to listen to but like radio I have no control over the order it’s played. iPod, the new radio.

There’s another phenomenon that has rapidly grown under the radar: Podcasting. Podcasters create an audio show which, with the help of software is automatically delivered to your iTunes and subsequently to your iPod if you synchronize. As the developers of iPodderX say on their site “Fresh content, automatically” – what could be a better description of radio? Fresh content, of the type you want to listen to, automatically. With radio you tuned in: with podcasting it’s delivered to your iPod without any more effort than tuning in a radio. Podcasting really got started in the second half of 2004. We’ve been streaming our long running DV Guys show since April 2000 but we’ve only been podcasting since October 2004. We are now regularly getting comments “I listen to the show more often because it’s Podcast”.

Podcasting is a rapidly growing phenomenon feeding off the success of the iPod – no doubt a result of the law of unintended consequences.

Where audio leads, video follows. We are already seeing the beginnings of video podcasting. Video podcasting, of some form, to some device is almost certainly going to be a major influencer in the way people consume media. Think about it. The programs you want to watch will be automatically delivered to your media server ready for consuming on your schedule. Should ever Apple do a video iPod that would be a logical place of consumption, but failing that, a Mac Mini as home media server has got to be on the horizon. Already video podcasts are being directed at video-equipped 3GPP cell phones.

Significant uptake of video podcasting could lead to serious changes in content distribution channels as well as open distribution opportunities for new content because video podcasting will “break” the real time delivery barrier. Because podcasts are pulled ‘in the background’ there’s no limit on the bandwidth so good quality standard definition or high definition can readily be delivered (using H.264/AVC) to whatever delivery device you use. Bandwidth remains an issue for the small content creator – become successful and die on a new variation of the “Slashdot effect.”

There are people working on using a Bit Torrent to solve the bandwidth problem for smaller (i.e. not huge mega corporation) content providers.

Whether the programming is the DV Guys podcast or the latest HD mega-movie delivered to my home media server for consumption when I want, to having purchased it from the iMovie online store, the future is going to be different than the past and present with the strangle-hold on distribution broken.

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5 comments

  • Tristan Parry · February 14, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Distribution is the golden goose. While large scale distributors are strangling the goose pretty well at the moment – expect them to buy up ‘rogue’ distribution channels and assimilate into newly formed pod type videocasters. While they cannot stop some of the ‘geese’ going free-range or even feral – while there are big bucks to be made or protected they will still maintain medium-term control of distribution through sheer weight of influence. Look at the record industry – they may be hurting just a bit through MP3 piracy but they are able to join in the game (iTunes) or consolidate through mergers to protect their business. There’s still hope for the little guys – but they are prob destined to sty little guys for a while yet. It’s just the physics of business.

  • jeffh · February 15, 2005 at 8:33 am

    For a while I was as excited about pod-casting as you seem to be. One of the things that I liked about it was that as a user, I was able to decide WHEN I wanted to listen to something. I also liked that the ‘channels’ of info were so diverse. Plus, other than the time to download and import into my ipod, it was free!
    Why don’t I think podcasting is the future of radio anymore? Because in the middle of my own excitement of pod-casting I purchased a Sirius radio. I know it’s not free, and that’s a big thing for some folks – but for the enjoyment I’ve been getting out of it I would have paid twice the price.
    I now happen to think that satellite radio is the future of radio. I _cannot_ stop listening to the satellite radio now! Satellite has a good diversity of music, and news, – I’m not saying I wouldn’t want a few more channels added mind you – I’ve still got my own musical likes that aren’t reflected yet 🙂 but it’s just SO much better than FM or AM – that I can’t say enough about it.
    I’m not meaning to advertise for them – I’m simply a VERY satisfied customer. It has been a rare experience for me that I have high hopes for a product, and then the product exceeds them. That was my experience with Sirius radio.
    I’ll still continue to grab some of the pod-casts I’ve been listening to (I never thought I would enjoy a radio show about applescripting iTunes – but now I’m addicted!), but for my music, I’m very pleased with Sirius.

  • Philip Hodgetts · February 15, 2005 at 10:52 am

    Glad to hear you’re happy with Sirius Jeff, its success, like podcasting, is in large due to the widespread dissatisfaction with current terrestrial broadcasting. How do you do without deciding “WHEN” you want to listen, when you’re listening to Sirius? Or is it just that there’s enough choice that you do want to listen to that it doesn’t matter?

    BTW, found this reference in Wired today – The future of Radio is downloadable. Just another opinion of course, and there probably isn’t one “future”, but a range of options, of which podcasting will be one.

    Cheers Philip

  • Daniell Krawczyk · February 15, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    We’ve been working on a collaborative (BitTorrent based) peercasting community for the last year and are in the midst of a private beta testing right this moment. Podcasters are free to take advantage of our tracker/community system but we’re actually creating it with video producers in mind as we are a community media/public access organization ourselves. If you are interested in an invite, email me or visit http://digitalbicycle.org

  • Philip Hodgetts · February 15, 2005 at 1:41 pm

    Now that is cool. The idea of using Bit Torrent for community publishing to deal with the video bandwidth was going around in my mind. Very cool that you’re actually working on this. I signed up on the site because this is something I’m really interested in.

    Philip

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